President Joe Biden was welcomed at a conference of his Democratic Party on Friday with chants of “four more years,” as the Philadelphia crowd voiced strong support for his yet-unannounced reelection bid.
“Let me ask you a simple question: Are you with me?” the octogenarian leader asked the hotel auditorium, which responded with cheers, many attendees waving “Go Joe” placards.
Gathered for two days in historic Philadelphia, members of the Democratic National Committee are working to lay the groundwork for a successful 2024 campaign, with Biden’s name now widely expected to be on the ballot.
US Senator Chris Coons, a longtime ally of Biden, told AFP he expects a formal announcement “in a few months.”
Ahead of the president’s keynote speech, the chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic Party told a panel discussion to be ready to go to bat for Biden.
“All of you have to be (Biden’s)… evangelist in the next two years,” he said.
“There has been no president that has done more in the past two years,” he added, pointing to the once-in-a-generation package Biden signed into law to rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure, and his efforts to boost unionized labor.
Firing up campaigners who had traveled from America’s four corners, he told the audience: “We’ve got to get out there… sell that to the American people.”
– Age-old question –
It might be Republicans that have the elephant as their official symbol, but there is a giant pachyderm in the room whenever Democrats discuss Biden in 2024.
The 46th president was born closer to the end of Abraham Lincoln’s tenure than to the start of his own.
Already the oldest president in US history, he would be 86 when the time comes to hand over the Oval Office keys, assuming he wins reelection and stays healthy.
Many of his critics think that’s just too old, especially since the former senator and vice president promised in 2020 to make his presidency a “bridge” to a younger generation.
“I hear that from time to time, but I don’t hear it as much as you might think,” says Martin, downplaying what could be an easy talking point for Biden’s Republican opponent in the race for the White House.
Like Martin, many Democrats are casting aside concerns over Biden’s advanced years to rally to his side ahead of what is expected to be an imminent declaration that he will vie for another four years.
Even members of the party’s progressive wing, who were initially suspicious of the president’s social and climate agenda, have fallen into line.
“I wouldn’t discriminate against somebody because they’re a certain age if they’re advancing an agenda that works,” Pennsylvania state representative Malcolm Kenyatta, nearly 50 years the president’s junior, told AFP.
– Republican Party’s ‘last breaths’ –
In Philadelphia, the historic cradle of US democracy, opposition to Biden’s putative candidacy came largely from outside the tent.
In Friday’s icy wind, a truck displaying a blunt but pointed slogan — “Don’t run, Joe” — took laps around the convention hall.
“He’s a really weak candidate going into 2024,” said Sam Rosenthal, the dissident behind the stunt, whose group is not affiliated with the Democratic Party.
The simmering controversy over Biden’s retention of classified documents and his insufficiently progressive politics make the incumbent a “non-viable” choice for the Democratic nomination, Rosenthal told AFP.
These objections may be shared by Democrats elsewhere, but they were falling on deaf ears in the “City of Brotherly Love.”
Biden, who faced about 15 rivals in the party’s 2020 primary, looks destined to run unopposed if he does decide to extend his tenure.
What will remain a mystery for the next year or so is the identity of his likely Republican opponent, with Donald Trump far from certain to stay the course as his party’s frontrunner.
“I believe that we are seeing some of the last breaths of the Republican Party,” said Jaime Harrison, the Democratic Party chairman, brimming with confidence.
“Take your medicine, take your vitamins and just get ready.”